How to Get Rid of Slugs with Beer

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Robert Pavlis

It is getting warmer and the Hostas are growing. It is time for the slugs and snails to come out and do their damage. There is a lot of advice on the net on how to get rid of slugs and snails including; beer traps, diatomaceous earth, egg shells, salt and copper tape. I’ve examined copper tape in How to Get Rid of Slugs with Copper. In this post I will look at killing slugs with beer.

beer slug trap
How to get rid of slugs with beer

What is a Slug Beer Trap?

Slugs and snails are apparently attracted to beer. If you take a small container like a tuna tin, fill it with beer, and set it on the ground. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, go for a sip, fall in and drown. Don’t submerge the top of the tin even with the soil level or you might also kill ground beetles which eat slugs. Keep rims at least 1″ above soil level.

Slug beer traps only attract slugs in  the surrounding few feet, so you need lots of them to be effective. According to Slugoff, a company that makes a more sophisticated beer trap, you need a trap every meter (3 feet).

Do Beer Slug Traps work?

A video is worth a thousand words:

YouTube video

Source: A Time Lapse of Slugs and Beer

There are several important points to notice. Slugs do seem to be attracted to the beer. You can see several going past the slug trap, and then changing direction toward the trap. Near the beginning of the video you can also see a slug about a foot away from the trap, who turns around and leaves–they need to get close for the trap for it to work well. Most slugs take a drink and leave. They have no trouble climbing up the side of the container. A few do drop in and die, but most don’t.

Plant Science for Gardeners by Robert Pavlis

The slug beer traps do seem to work but there are some limitations:

  • they work over a very short distance
  • most slugs will just enjoy the beer and leave. Maybe, they will have a hangover the next day and leave your Hostas alone?

YouTube video

Do you Need to Use Beer?

Reference 1 compares the effectiveness of various beers and other fermentation products like yeast solutions to see which works best. Here are some of their conclusions:

  • slugs are not attracted to the alcohol, it’s the yeast or yeast by products that attracts them
  • different beers do work quite differently
  • sugar + baking yeast was as effective as some beers, but not as effective as Budweiser

How to Get Rid Slugs

The slug beer traps are modestly effective. They will kill slugs, but most will get away. I think it is a real shame to waste beer on slug traps. If you feel the need to use them, use sugar + yeast–and drink the beer!

You might also like these posts on other methods for getting rid of slugs:

Getting Rid of Slugs with Coffee Grounds

How to Get Rid of Slugs with Copper

References:

1) Attractiveness of Beer and Fermentation Products to Slugs

2) Photo Source; Tony Cyphert

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

85 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Slugs with Beer”

  1. Cut an aluminum beer can in half or so making it about 3 inches deep. Put a few drops af hand dishwashing soap in the bottom . Nearly fill it with beer and put it in the soil deep enough so it’s easy for the slugs. If you have slugs at all you will find many victims of drowning soon enough to convince you that it’s working. They usually pile into it in surprising amounts.The soap makes it difficult for them to climb back out once they have it on them and they just sort of fall in.

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  2. Tuna tins are far too shallow to trap slugs; the slugs need to fall into the beer. Use a liter plastic container with about 250ml of beer in the bottom. Put Vaseline on the inside rim and bury so only about 5cm is above ground level. I did this in the past and, after one day, the trap was half full of slugs.

    Reply
  3. The day before yesterday I cleared the side of the garage of all plant life and debris. I was armed with garden tools and a variety of landscaping items… ready to prep for next year’s garden to-be.
    What I discovered, to my horror, was an infestation of slugs. I harvested all that I saw and they were countless, or maybe I can’t count very high.
    The web search began and I readied for battle. That night, I checked the yard & I swear they had multiplied. My hand picking hadn’t even made a dent!
    Last night I rigged my first beer trap with a home brew. I checked it around 11pm & discovered 2 slugs in the trap, with a good 2 dozen around it. I left them to find their way and went to sleep. This morning I rushed outside ready to empty the liquid mass grave. 3 slugs, 3… 3!!
    To Google I went and here I am. Well, myth busted. I wonder if the neighbors would still complain about chickens if they were getting free eggs?
    Bah, I may have lost this battle but the war has just begun.

    Reply
    • I have tried all the myths of getting rid of slugs and snails. Nothing worked. My best bet, and it is kind of labor intensive, I go around my garden once or twice a week and turn over the rocks, small pots, and drip pans under my pots. There they hide during the day! Someone asked if I pour salt on them- no, that seems so time consuming! I just nip them in half with my garden scissors or smash them with a rock. Yucky, you say? Yes, at first, but for every slug or snail I get, I am saving part of my plants from being eaten! I have a lot of rocks bordering my garden and discovered that is where they stay the most. At first I was finding 2-3 slugs under each rock (yes, I was shocked!) but now I am finding fewer and fewer. Hoping I am cutting down on the population in my yard. I have lots of little starter plants in pots in areas around my garden too, and they stick to the bottoms of the pots. Am thinking I will just put some dirt in some and put them around the yard here and there as a place for them to go during the day and then flip them over during the day and continue to find them.

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  4. I’m going to try filling the base of the container with crushed egg shell and then add the yeast mixture…maybe they will try to crawl over the egg shells ( which will cut them) to get to the yeast mixture?

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  5. I wonder if there would be any point in dissolving some slug bait pellets in beer or sugar/yeast to attract more slugs and save some money. Slug bait is expensive. I guess I need to find an agricultural supplier.

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    • The problem when you combine chemicals is that your need to know what they do. Will the active ingredient in slug bate still be active for slugs?

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    • Farmers buy it in bulk at a fraction of the price you pay in the big box store. This is true for all ag products, whether it be sulfur or grass seed. My local farmer gave me a lifetime supply of slug bait. To him it was a trivial amount.

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  6. I did my own experience as well and found that most of the slugs simply drank the beer and moved on. This raised the question as to whether or not we’re simply compounding the problem.

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  7. I wish to get rid of leopard slugs in my worm farm but if I put a yeast bait in it, with it attract the worms as well. I don’t want them to drown in the trap too. Also, I believe that worms aren’t attracted to light, so would it be safe to put a millipede light trap in the worm farm. Again, the worms would drown if they cross the water to the light.

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  8. I’ve used tuna fish cans to bait slugs w/beer. I try to bury them only about half way into the grounds as slugs seem to find a way in. Pillbugs seem to like the beer too. Like many folks I found lots of slugs drinking my bait and leaving. Understanding that the “traps” certainly attracted the beasts, I took to checking the traps and adjacent area. With my flashlight, rubber glove, tongs, and a cottage cheese carton w/half an inch of salt in the bottom, I head out at 11:00 and make my run. I pick the dead ones out of the traps, then the ones sipping at the sides and then the ground adjacent. I’ll consistently harvest 25-30 slugs a night. I also find several slugs “in transit” during my hunt. So for me, the beer bait works although it’s kill to sipping rate may not great. To keep rain from diluting my bait or washing it out completely I improvised a cover by cutting a gallon milk jug roughly in half. Next I cut a low arched opening on each side of the jug to make it welcoming. I had some left over spray paint and camouflaged them w/a spot of brown and tan and green so they wouldn’t stand out in the garden. Saved some beer. Slugs seemed to enjoy climbing up onto the inside of the covers so I always check to see if any are hiding up there. I’ve noticed that the slugs I catch are usually the larger ones. When I check my hostas I often find the damage being done by very small, half an inch or smaller, slugs working on the underside of leaves but never find them in the traps. Or perhaps they disappear into the “brew”. Any thoughts?

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